Unfortunately (or not?) we are not born experts at living a grown up life – we are learning how to do this on the go, we are always discovering how to best do it and allow in different degrees to be shaped as adults by our experiences and people that surround us. The good thing is that no-one else was born an expert in living the grown up life, but the bad thing anyways is that no-one can do this for us except…us.
But learning and facing new responsibilities as we grow up or as we become parents or as we deal with University then later on with a real job – this is never easy. Besides learning, we need to take decisions, risks, assume thigs will work out, fail, fail miserably, feeling overwhelmed and so on – while still having to face responsibilities, deadlines, exams, bosses or…our own children who depend 100% on us.
Learning to be an adult is not easy and feelings such as fear, stress, burnout and even depression are normal. We all have our own way to cope with life’s challenges and I believe we need to give ourselves permission to feel as we do. My thoughts for this blogpost are around recognizing these feelings as early as they settle in, and dealing with them as they are. There are simple ways to overcome fear, stress, burnout and even depression – on your own. Feel free to seek expert advice from a therapist if you just can’t deal with things on your own – it’s perfectly normal to do so.
The things I am writing about are not my discovery – but something I have learned during a course on Emotional Intelligence by Mircea Miclea. I really admire him for what he knows and does, while the course was absolutely brilliant. It helped me open my eyes about quite a few things. The lines below are his teaching filtered through my own interpretation – as anyone has his own interpretation of the things surrounding him.
Step 1: Identify your own emotions of fear, stress, burnout or depression
Sometimes we figure out easily that we are scared of something or stressed out at work – or even burned out or depressed. If you are already sure you are experiencing one of these feelings, you can go right away to the dealing with these emotions part further on.
If you are not sure what you are actually felling – you just feel you are not ok and it’s not necessarily a physical thing, then maybe the lines below are going to help. There are a few symptoms that may mean you feel in a certain way -symptoms that are usually not obvious. As they are not obvious, people feeling fear or burnout feel free to express them – in the end, no one or very few people will catch on them. But once we know these symptoms, it will be easier to discover what the “not ok” feeling might be.
The manifestation of fear in an unconscious way results in behaviors such as:
- Avoidance: you tend to avoid the new situations where you don’t know what to do, or you avoid doing old things in a new way
- Assurance: you look for assurance in many parts and to many people, just to be yourself 100% sure what you’re about to do is right
- Excuses: you let others be the first ones to do a certain thing; you need to see how it’s done and most importantly, if it’s working
Stress manifest itself by one or more of these states:
- Being aggressive: either verbally or physically
- Apathy: being disappointed most of the times, having a negative attitude toward everything happening to you
- Obsessive-compulsive: switching from being aggressive to being apathetic or the other way around. A behaviour that switches from one state to the other quite often
The main symptoms of burn-out are the ones related to the fact that you don’t have reactions anymore to certain situations: you don’t feel happy about a good news; you don’t get angry over an injustice. The stress is simply way too big to allow for any other feeling to take over. You are just numb to anything that is not related to the reason of your stress.
The depressive state is when you feel you have messed up everything, you have just missed out on all the good things that could have happened to you but they didn’t. You see all your world as tragic, and everything happening to you as apocalyptical. You just feel you cannot make it anymore and that there’s no solution at all for your problems.
Step 2: Analyse and understand your emotions
An emotion is basically a state of our needs, objectives, relationships, body, thoughts, feelings. Having such emotions as fear, stress, burnout or depression might mean we need to analyse which part of our life is in a “bad state” – usually, there are more parts than just one where you feel things are not ok, especially during a depression.
But how to look for what’s wrong? Below are a few tips, just make sure you also allow yourself time to think about them seriously and try to understand what triggered them in you. It’s very important to discover this to be able to deal with them further on:
Discover if the emotion was generated by a reference point you compare things with:
your expectation for things to happen in a certain way – and they are not happening that way. You might experience this for the future and you are afraid things will not turn out as you want them too (fear). Or you feel stressed and event burnout because no matter what you do you feel you will not meet your targets and miss your goals. And even depression can be because you see everything around you turns out to be really below your expectations.
What to do about it: ask yourself if the expectations/goals/targets are a good reference point. Maybe you ask for the moon for yourself and what are the odds of reaching the moon really? You need to set more reasonable reference points for yourself if you want to have a chance to happiness. And you need to give yourself a break – you, as the rest of us all, are not perfect so stop trying to be perfect and be disappointed that you are not.
Negative versus positive:
our brain was set to react stronger to negative stimulus than to positive ones – as a defence mechanism to outside possible danger and survival chance. That’s why we find the negative emotions to be so much more important than the positive ones – imagine you gain $100 on your salary as a bonus, then next month you don’t get the $100 because no bonuses are given. The feeling of losing the $100 is so much stronger than the feeling of winning them previously. We hold on to the negative emotions longer, they have a stronger impact on us and they go away more difficult than the positive ones.
What to do about it: you just need to understand that fear, stress, burnout and depression are negative emotions that are really strong on you and that’s normal because of the way our bran is made.
Emotions are connected to a past or to a future,
they’re not only connected to the present. There might be something in the past (recent past or childhood past) that is still not resolved and continues to trigger fear or stress in you. Or it might be a projection into the future of what might happen (especially what might happen badly) – and while it is all in your brain, you still experience fear and negative emotions.
What to do about it: this is usually something that really gets to you at a very deep level, that’s why you really need to think about and identify what is in your past that still triggers you to be afraid, or stressed about? Is it the way your parents treated you, or a teacher, or a former boss? Is it something your partner told you? Or what is it about the future that gets you into dark thoughts, fear or depression?
of these negative emotions are usually not right and they are more or less visible to the others: you are afraid to try new things, you lack the courage to stand out, you can’t be happy anymore or you see everything around you in a gloomy, dark light. Visible or not, they will affect the relation you have with your dear ones and with your colleagues, as your social skills and performance are affected in a negative way.
What to do about it: really think about what are the consequences of your fear, stress, burnout or depressions? Consequences on your feelings, day to day mood, consequences on how you interact with the others, personal dear ones or school/job colleagues. What are the results of your behaviours because of experiencing all these negative emotions?
I have shared a little on identifying and analysing the emotions of fear, stress, burnout and depression. I wanted to do this as I see these emotions all around me and people hardly realise they might be experiencing this. It’s also a social norm not to show these emotions – no one really knows how to help dealing with them.
In part II of this article I will write about what we can do on our own if we experience these emotions. I do recommend to seek expert advice if you feel so, but it’s worth giving a try on your own if you’re not quite ready to seek expert advice just yet. It might actually work if you really work on it.
So stay tuned, the next article will be about doing something concrete about dealing with our fears, stress, burnout and depression state.